Connery is so fascinating precisely because he's the midpoint between Edwin Morgan and Jimmy Reid, in terms of Scottish masculinity and politics. As a star he's perfectly aware of how constructed a public identity can be, how much you need to morph and shape your personality to succeed - indeed, how camp the whole affair is. But as a patriotic, populist Scot he also understands that a performer can rise from those who don't have the luck or willpower to shine in that singular way - and that it's important to keep them in mind, to collectively and systemically improve their chances of success. Does it make him the most consistent and coherent of characters? No. But you have to admire the energy and determination that holds all these contradictions together.
Available out there on the web are at least two pieces I've written about him over the last decade - this one an Independent review of his curious autobiography, written with Murray Grigor:
If nothing else, SeanConnery has always been alive to the gloomy dualities of Scottish culture, as these opening lines to his self-directed 1967 documentary, The Bowler and the Bunnet, confirm: "The country of the extremes/ Love of life/ Hatred of life/ Poets and murderers/ Rigid temperance and savage drinking/ John Knox and Johnny Walker/ Sturdy democracy and savage class hatred/ Warm hearts and idiot violence".
This quirky account of an innovative industrial initiative – which momentarily turned confrontational "Red Clydeside" shipworkers into co-operative Japanese-style "colleagues" – was made in the same year that Connery was blowing Blofeld away, astride his yellow death-dealing mini-copter in You Only Live Twice. So we should pause before wondering why one of the most celebrated movie stars should put his name to such a cerebral book as this. There's a consistency in Connery's seriousness about Scotland, which the septuagenarian wants decisively to nail to the flag-pole – particularly in these febrile times for the Union.
Yet the intriguing thing about Being A Scot – which makes it more than just an intellectual vanity project – is the definition of Scottishness it plays with. Connery's Scotland is "a country where the invention of tradition is in itself a tradition", where "fakelore and folklore" should be equally valued. From a hard-scrabble, footie-mad working-class boy who literally constructed his acting persona – through body-building, listening to his voice on tapes, and a voracious auto-didacticism – there's an even deeper consistency here. The Connery who played the role of Ian Fleming's sadistic, hyper-English super-snob James Bond is hardly unaware of the lie that tells the truth.
And in 2000, for the Observer, on his 70th. I'm a bit more dismissive again, focussing more on his movie masculinity:
But the context rarely matters these days: the performance is always the same. Connery makes his cash from peddling a kind of mid-century incorrigibility, a source-code maleness. As an off-the-shelf star property, Sean still seems to solve a lot of problems for a lot of people.
Directors looking for some anchor to their dodgy scripts; movie fans who've surfed their satellite channels and have a taste for some living memories; weary men and women who want a brief respite from the never-ending story of sexual redefinition. And when Sean pulls on that white spiky toupée he's worn for the last few action movies, trims up the beard and straps in the gut, you have to admit that he looks like a citizen with some seniority about him. But the presence of Connery on our screens has now become a bore, an automatic reflex among casting directors that they really should begin to resist. Connery is an unreconstructed male icon, at a time when the new constructions are getting more complex, and more interesting, by the day.